Unconventional Sustainability

Photo credit: andyarthur

If you’d have told me 6 years ago that I would be a cloth diaper user, I’d have raised my eyebrows. If you would have said that I would be a happy Moon cup user, I would have told you that you were crazy. Had you told me that I would be a non-vaccinating natural mama using diet to prevent illness, I would have laughed in your face.

I’m so glad I’ve changed.

Green is popular. The media regularly reports stories of people doing their share to save the planet. Huge companies have jumped on board, creating special stickers for their “eco-friendly” products. And more and more people are buying organic foods.

That’s all well and good – everyone has to start somewhere. But what’s next? What happens after you’ve discovered that it’s much cheaper and better for your health to making cleaning products yourself? What’s the next step after you realize that recycling your waste doesn’t address the real problem: excess waste?

Socially acceptable green

Lets take a look at what’s considered normal for saving the planet and living a healthier life:

  • Recycling
  • Purchasing “green” products from stores
  • Buying organic packaged foods
  • Hybrid cars
  • Bio-degradable paper products

The reason that these methods are accepted by the masses is because they’re easy. They don’t require much change, in most cases, they just require more money. Big companies love that. People love that. Change is hard and this is an ok place to start.

But then, something happens to some people. They realize that they’re not really doing much. The only big change is how much more they’re spending on products than they used to.

Getting weird

Gradually a shift is made because they truly want to lessen their negative impact on this world. That’s when they become a little weird. Friends and family start making a few jokes about what their doing. But it’s ok, because their changes are making a difference for the planet (and their budgets).

When you get a little weird, people start doing things like:

  • Composting food waste
  • Hanging their laundry to dry
  • Making their own cleaners
  • Using cloth diapers
  • Cooking food from scratch using organic ingredients
  • Driving less and using public transit, walking or bicycling

And then, for some of us, there comes a moment when you realize that there’s so much more you could do. There’s still too much waste, too much money spent on gas. You start researching and find other families doing crazy things out of their convictions to become more sustainable. And, after you think about it a little bit, you think that maybe they aren’t so crazy after all. Maybe it’s worth a try.

The point of no return

And that’s when you stop being a little weird and turn into a crazy hippie lady (or dude). You’ll know it’s happened when you do or consider doing:

Selling the car(s) – In lots of places this is totally doable and transportation can be accomplished by walking, bicycling, public transit or borrowing a car when you need to drive far distances.

Elimination communication – Who needs diapers? Countries all over the world don’t use diapers, instead, their babies learn how to use the toilet as tiny infants.

Handwashing dishes – Why isn’t this just a little weird? Because when I tell people that we use our dishwasher as a drying rack and only run it twice a month to prevent water buildup, they look at me as if I’m crazy. Just try it sometime, there’s plenty of time for thinking and reflection because nobody wants to bother you. 😉

Turning off your water heater – Making sure your water heater is set to 120 degrees and then turning it off in the late morning will drastically reduce the amount of electricity you use. Turn it back on before bed if you need to shower in the morning or just do it when you wake up so there’s hot water for those dishes. This lowered our electric bill a ton.

Family cloth – Cloth wipes instead of toilet paper. Yep, most people are disgusted at this and I’ve only tried it a few times. Dirties are placed in a special pail (or the cloth diaper pail). If you think it’s unsanitary, hospitals routinely reuse all of their linens, which have far nastier things on them than urine or poo. Pour some vinegar and a little Bac-out in the wash if you’re really worried.

Proactive healthcare – We’ve done this by paying special attention to what we eat, which I believe is the number one way to prevent illness. Our immune systems are strong because we eat immune-boosting foods and herbs, avoid immune-suppressing sugar and expose ourselves to small amounts of foreign germs on a regular basis. This is our well-baby care.

Zero-waste – It’s hard to recycle when you have nothing to recycle. Composting food scraps, using reusable…everything and shopping with your own bags and containers makes it pretty easy to quickly cut back on waste. Bea Johnson is SO good at this and eagerly shares her ideas at her website, Zero Waste Home.

Don’t worry, you can be a little weird in some places and a crazy hippie lady in others. I’m just glad you’re being intentional about what you do. :)

Where do you fall on the spectrum?


  1. says


    Guess you can just call me weird. . . the ‘Point of no return’ — ouch! That would be tough!! Selling car, yeah, not in the midwest. . . hand-washing dishes, um no way man! :) Elimination communication?? How does one go about doing that??

    Turning off water heater? — that may be a good idea, if it has saved you tons of money and it isn’t that big of a deal to do — my only question is, doesn’t it take the water longer to get warm, therefore using more water?? Just curious.

    Family Cloth — Not sure I could do that. Maybe down the road, but sounds gross :) lol

    Pro-active healthcare — AMEN HONEY!! I am so with you on that :) My children will be raised knowing how to care for themselves holistically! Love it!!

    Zero- Waste. . . we are definitely small waste users and glad! We don’t purchase much, so we do not waste much…we only take our trash can to the curb once/ twice a month…we have more recyclables than anything, which I would prefer to have than waste.

    Great post!! Really got me thinking!!

  2. says

    Your list made me laugh! I loved it. I must be called a crazy hippie lady at some point because I fit just about all the items on the list. Thanks for sharing this one. :)-Tanja

  3. says

    I have went car-lite when I can, make my own cleaners and use jalapenos and cayenne as a cure-almost-anything! I used family cloths when I had a washer and loved them much more than bathroom tissue but alas, I have downsized myself out of a washer!

    The kid and I went down to a 1-bedroom house we rent; the kid gets the bedroom and I get a futon in the living room to reduce expenses, space and energy required.

    If you are a hippie mama, guess I’m one too!

  4. says

    How ’bout building a straw bale, passive-solar-heated, 95% recycled/reused house?

    Yeah, we crossed over into the weird zone several years ago.

    And we’re weird in other ways too – like –
    NO TV.
    NO newspaper, magazines, etc.
    Never buy clothes/shoes/appliances/furniture (etc) retail.

    And best of all –
    give, give, give so much away, till ya’ can’t afford the fancy stuff. No better way to crush the materialism-monster!

  5. says

    We raised our own chickens last spring, have been composting for years, and have NEVER used a disposable diaper on our daughter. We also do some elimination communication. I recently wrote a blog about how I became an EC mom :) But we have a way to go before we’re zero waste. I think I need to sew up some cloth bags for my fruit and veggies, those flimsy plastic baggies really bother me, but sometimes I need to contain my fruit!

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. says

    Nina, this is great! So many wonderful ideas for how to be even more weird!
    We fall part way between weird and ‘point of no return’.
    I have been doing EC since our first was 3 weeks old. It was challenging especially because we didn’t and still don’t know anyone else who does it, though things with our second are going much better.
    Some things are not an option for us as we don’t own our own home. We’re renting a basement which means we can’t compost (though we’re looking into vermiculture), have our own garden, choose whether we soften our water, have an air conditioner, turn off the water heater(cool idea), you get the picture. Though almost everything we buy is second hand (with the exception of food of course) from all independent, local businesses.
    We are ALL over the proactive and natural healthcare. I can’t even remember the last time I went to the doctor (nothing against doctors, they have their place). Josh complains when I feed him vile tasting herbal things to help him get over a cold but he loves it.

    All that to say… We’re pretty hippie I guess.


  7. says

    I love having another hippie friend to talk to! I’m so glad I know you guys.

    Ian has become more and more willing to try my crazy herbal concoctions. I guess they’ve worked enough for him in the past to trust me now. 😉

  8. says

    I need to read that post! Our youngest is 21 months old and in the last month has decided that he wants to use the big kid potty like his siblings. Aside from the occasional accident when he’s diaper free (including a recent incident where he decided that the best way to practice peeing standing up would be to pee on all of the Vibram Fivefinger shoes he could find), he seems to be catching on pretty quickly. I highly recommend Bea’s blog – she has some great tips for reducing waste.

  9. Hannah Graham says

    Hi Nina!
    I discovered your blogs a couple of months ago and love them! I’m always so excited to continually take steps toward a more sustainable life. I’m the daughter of environmentalists who have been doing many of these things my whole life, and thus equipping me with the head start of doing them automatically…but that’s not to say that there can’t always be improvement! I’d rate my fiancee and I definitely between weird and the point of no return.
    What led me to this post was actually your comment about toilet paper in your Budget-Slashing post. It got me curious because I’d never heard of anyone else doing that in this culture. My fiancee taught me to not use toilet paper by washing with water after using the bathroom. Inspired by the practices of other cultures and several religions, we use a watering-can-like pitcher filled with warm water (it’s best if you can reach the tub or the sink from the toilet). By cupping your hand below your bottom and pouring the water into it, you can splash it and gently rub everything very clean. Then use the cloth (I prefer either a wash cloth or cloth diaper!)to dry. Wash your hands very well with soap and warm water. As you say, the initial reaction is “yuck!”, but after thinking about it, one begins to think “yuck” instead about how dirty people’s bums stay with toilet paper (you simply cannot wipe it all off!). This leaves you so much cleaner (which, among other things, eliminates worry in those intimate moments). An additional bonus is that I stopped suffering from continuous yeast infections almost immediately!

    Well…this was probably a pretty personal comment for being the first one! I hope you won’t judge me for it! I mostly wanted to share this because it really improved my life in many ways, while also being more sustainable. I hope I haven’t grossed you out.

    It’s so wonderful to see so many people pursuing these more sustainable lifestyles, all eager to share and learn more! It’s definitely a process that (for me at least) works best and sticks when taken step by step. Thank you for giving me ideas for the next few footfalls!


    (Also, I can’t wait for your Simple Natural Health book to come out!)

  10. says

    LOL! I’m definitely not one to judge. My initial thought was, “Interesting” as I tried to visualize it. I’ll probably try it. :) I’m not easily grossed out. I was a nurse’s aid for a while and after that, things just didn’t bother me as much. Except sputum. Blech. Gag.

    Thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad to hear that you’ve been getting some goodness out of it. I’m totally blessed when people let me know. Thanks for making my night even better.

    Oh, and if you’re on the email list, you’ll get a special notice about the book tomorrow.

  11. Stephanie Chisholm says

    Do you have a more in depth post about your proactive healthcare? I’m super interested in that – and I have a book about natural healing but it doesn’t talk much about prevention. I would love to hear how you do it!

  12. Danyell says

    We invested in a Rinnai Tankless water heater. It only heats the water when you need it. We love it!

  13. says

    Love this! I’m full on weird (and never had a dishwasher) but want to graduate to the point of no return. My boyfriend has lived without a car for over a year now, I think. He rides his bike everywhere. I’d like to do that more often, but our town is pretty rural and doesn’t have public transportation. I still don’t know about the family cloth, though.


Leave a Reply